By Maj. Al Phillips, New York National GuardSeptember 7, 2018
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany - National Guard Chaplains from states partnered with African militaries, met with their African counterparts August 23-26, as U.S. Africa Command hosted a meeting for chaplains as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.
The American chaplains and their counterparts exchanged ideas and best practices during the four-day workshop.
"As chaplains we must be committed to the service and needs of the service members and that is why I am here," said New York National Guard State Chaplain Lt. Col Scott Elher. "Here today, New York tomorrow and South Africa later, I go where I am needed."
New York has a State Partnership Program with South Africa. The South African National Defense Force has 180 chaplains, the largest chaplain's corps on the continent.
The National Guard State Partnership Program links a unique component of the Department of Defense - a state's National Guard - with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
State Partnership program states conduct joint training and conduct officer and NCO exchange visits. The chaplains meeting are part of that effort.
Chaplains from Nigeria, partnered with California; Botswana, partnered with North Carolina; Djibouti, partnered with Kentucky; Ghana, partnered with North Dakota; and Kenya, which is partnered with Massachusetts; attended the workshop.
The four-day workshop was designed as a professional and spiritual workshop to build upon evidence-based expertise, studies of experienced chaplains who relayed what works well, what can be improved and how to ultimately succeed in the role as chaplain in Africa, Ehler said.
AFRICOM hosts chaplain gatherings between American and African nation's military chaplains regularly.
Information exchange and the need for dialogue are critical to chaplains, Ehler said.
Americans may not understand how things work in Africa, the African chaplains emphasized.
"If there is an issue with a neighboring African country-the US should not go in ill-advised but should seek the advice of another African country first because we see ourselves as brothers," said Botswana Defense Force Chaplain David Taote Mapitse.
The AFRICOM Command Chaplain emphasized the importance of an African proverb in working on the continent: "If you want to go fast-go alone. However, if you want to go far-go with partners"
"As a chaplain, we work with such a collegiate crowd and we do so by working together," AFRICOM Command Chaplain (Col.) Michael Klein said. "God utilizes people to refine us, to smooth us out, this is what signifies-to establish regional security, mitigate extremism and restore confidence," he added.
U.S chaplains are endeavoring to be enablers for the African chaplains, Klein said. They are interfacing with U.S. embassies, and foreign defense relations on a daily basis to maintain dialogue with their counterparts and collaborate, he added.
Overall the four-day meeting was worthwhile, said Col. Dr. Tobias Maluku, Chaplain Service Chief of Staff for South Africa National Defense Force we wish God's blessing going forward to the future. I want to express our gratitude for this informative event," Masuku said.